STILL SHINING ON

At  first glance, it looks fairly straightforward. After conquering the earth with Dark Side Of The Moon, Pink Floyd were shadowed by understandable anxiety regarding their follow-up album. Eventually, they found inspiration in the things they knew. 

  1. Their own history
  2. An industry slavering at the door, demanding to be fed.

The result was an album of one extended piece (split roughly in half) and three shorter songs, two of which focused on the music biz.

“Welcome to the machine” and “Have a cigar” are both Roger Waters tunes, snarling and snapping at the hand that fed the band. This fury would increasingly overwhelm Pink Floyd and define Waters subsequent career, yet here it is less savage than it would become; more mocking than lacerating. Oh, by the way, which one’s Pink?

The rest of the album has a quite different feel, as it wanders through reflections on Floyd founder Syd Barrett’s mental dissolution. “Shine on you crazy diamond” (Parts 1—5 open the album, Parts 6—9 complete it on side two) is a gently unfolding musical canvas of great charm and romantic sadness. 

On this occasion “romantic” does not mean music to soundtrack a candlelit dinner; here the washes of melody and soaring guitar lines pulsate with regret and quiver with loss. Yet—almost surprisingly—the whole is uplifting, glorious even. “Shine on” is a beautiful and haunting elegy for a lost friend. 

That sense of grief and loss is also present in the title track, the yearning, questioning, “Wish you were here”. The writer once stood in light drizzle on a football pitch in Hannover with fifty thousand people singing along with the band. “We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl, year after year” echoed around the stadium. Giving voice to loss and confusion, we somehow come closer together and perhaps even find solace.

Ultimately this is the legacy of Pink Floyd’s most integrated and satisfying album. The talents of Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason genuinely merged together for probably the last time, connected by the ghost of their former bandmate. And year after year new listeners discover a connection to Wish You Were Here, immersing themselves in its wistful beauty.

As a footnote, and at the risk of disturbing the mood, it must be said that the 2016 re-issue of Wish You Were Here is a delight. The sound is just fantastic (that is really what I think) and the package—especially for those who only had access to the gatefold edition first time around—will make record collectors smile. It’s a classic at every level.

*

First Published at Discrepancy Records. Reproduced with kind permission.

19 comments

  1. “Wish You Were Here” is one of the very first music albums I heard on vinyl as an 8-year-old. I’ve since listened to it many more times, and it still hasn’t lost any of its magic – truly a timeless gem, which is made to be enjoyed with a decent set of headphones.

    You absolutely nailed it when you wrote, “The sound is just fantastic (that is really what I think)”! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Christian. It’s a bona fide classic, for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. IMO, a very relatable album.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s a good word for it. Accessible too.

      Like

  3. kingclover · · Reply

    I’m the kind of person who would have been happier if they would have just made five or six more albums exactly like Dark Side of the Moon. I’m not sure why really, but I love Dark Side of the Moon and I don’t love Wish You Were Here. Well actually I do know why, It’s because I like the music on the one album, and I don’t like it on the other one. I used to think it was because of the lyrics or the subject matter, which really rub me the wrong way, but it’s really not. Even though they kept making album after album about how horrible and dreadful it is to be a successful musician, you still could have overlooked that if I liked the music better. I like Have a Cigar though. And I like some songs on Animals too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. DSOTM was certainly a big statement and a hard act to follow.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I was a VERY latecomer to the Floyd party, but I did get there eventually. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Timing may be everything, or so they say, but good music sits patiently awaiting discovery. Glad you made it to Pink’s Place.

      Like

  5. The most human Floyd LP, I always thought. There’s real warmth in there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is, I agree. Powered by (repressed English) love for Syd, I imagine.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. All that, unhealthy, emotion thing. Yuk.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s both my kids’ favourite Floyd album and I never get tired of hearing buskers play the title track too – well, back in the days when I used to go to towns and cities.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Those buskers probably wish you were there.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s my favourite Floyd album, although everything from 1971-1977 is pretty top-notch, including the oft-overlooked Obscured By Clouds.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right with you on that, Graham, including Obscured By Clouds.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Yup. Im gonna sit down on the bank and have a cigar this weekend. Maybe listen to this very good album. If you float by say hello.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sure will, compadre.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Definitely my favorite Floyd album. And a cover of all covers! – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, Marty. It is a special album. And classic cover shoot!

      Liked by 1 person

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